10 Financial Tips to Finish Strong in 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

10 Financial Tips to Finish Strong in 2012

We all want to hang onto our money. We sweat and slave at our job (or most of us do, anyway) and the economy is still drowning in the bottom of the cesspool of political denial—so we should be saving a few bucks whenever we can. Let’s finish this year stronger, by implementing good financial strategies that anyone can apply.  
                                                         Photo by cherrypoint

#10 - Save on banking fees. You might not be aware of this, but you could save hundreds of dollars on banking fees if you’re smart and make better choices. Have you made a list of the common everyday fees your institution might be charging you? Things like checking account fees, fees for bounced checks, and the processing fees for using an ATM are common bank fees. Then there’s forced minimum balances, forced direct deposits, and the juggling of paper versus digital statements—all of which have penalties/fees attached to them. When will it end? Never is a good guess.

So what can you do? The first option is to shop around. Ask questions and compare the fees applied by the banks in your area. Loyalty means nothing in today’s society—this is about you, not them. The better option is to drop your bank altogether and consider joining a credit union, with truly free accounts and minimal charges for business accounts. Do yourself a favor and compare the two institutions—you may find the credit unions provide just as much and more, while keeping your money local.

#9 - Trim your monthly bills by shopping around safely. Don’t settle for the rates you have on monthly bills like cable TV, internet, home phone and cell phones. Call up your provider and ask for a deal or discount. Let them know you’re shopping around for a better rate and they’re more likely to work with you. No one wants to lose a paying customer.

A friend of mine was so fed up with his home phone service, he bought a magicJack Plus and for $200 has his house phone paid for, including all long distance calls in the USA for the next six years! Plus, with all the competition in the cell phone industry—top providers are now offering no limit, no contract options. We got ours through Wal-Mart; $50/mo. for unlimited talk, text and data.

#8 - Create a budget. Don’t hate the word, budget doesn’t mean popcorn and rice for meals, or living by candlelight. It means being organized and knowing where each and every penny is being spent. When you know where your money is, you can get a better picture of where there might be holes in your financial strategy. Habits you may not be aware of will become visible and you can catch wasteful spending. A fantastic free tool you can utilize is mint.com. Without exposing your accounts, you can track, analyze and plan your finances, set goals and achieve them. This system doesn’t allow you to transfer money—it’s just to keep you organized—so your information is safe.

#7 - Save the change. Want to see a neat multiplying trick? Get a jar and pour all your pocket change into it when you come home each night. Pick a trip, event, or something you’ve wanted to save up for and apply the change towards it. Better yet—get the whole family involved and keep the jar in the open. Put a fun label on it. Before you realize it, you’ll have hundreds of dollars in that jar and I promise—you’ll wonder how it happened so fast. If you don’t use cash, you can still perform an online variation: simply round your accounting down to the nearest dollar…then transfer any change in your savings account. You’ll still have the money accumulate—but now you’ll get interest from it too! Every penny does, indeed, count.

#6 - Eat in, not out. If you want to put some serious cash back into your pocket, try eating in for a change. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on good food or fun. What it does mean is personal involvement. A great meal and a movie could run you $60 or more, unless you’re a burger and fries date. Why not learn how to cook, take some time and put a little personal love into the meal for your date or spouse? For the cost of movie tickets, you can get Netflix for two months. So try a few quiet evenings in front of the big screen with steak and shrimp, and you’ll still have a wad of cash left over.

#5 - Get cash back on your MONEY, not credit. This is a fun one and a no brainer. We all love using credit cards and other service/membership cards when we get rewards back, right? Well why not get cash back when you use your debit card too? If you think it’s impossible, think again—Perkstreet.com offers a debit card with rewards. That’s right, 2% cash-back for using your own money, without the fear of a late payment negating your rewards.

#4 - An apple a day keeps the doctor away. One of the largest hits we can receive is a medical bill. So take preventative steps and steer clear of the doctor’s office. Eat healthier and exercise to prevent immediate and long term medical needs. A little effort will go a long way, both now and in the future.

#3 - Do a simple upgrade on the house. The AC alone can cost you hundreds in monthly bills. You can save a great deal on both heating and cooling costs by spending an hour or two this weekend doing easy DIY projects - something as simple as installing weather stripping around the windows and doors can lower those utility bills and put more cash in your pocket.

#2 - Keep your car purring. With today’s gas prices, the last thing you want is to have your pay check sucked up with excessive drains at the pump. Making sure your car is tuned up, and running efficiently will save you money. Have your fuel filter and pump checked. Use synthetic oil to increase the life of your engine. Make sure your tires are at the right PSI. All of these factors will preserve both your car and your wallet. And lastly, get cheap car insurance discount.

#1 -Spring cleaning quarterly. The last tip is one that can organize your house, your mind and put some extra cash into your pocket. Get rid of unused and unwanted items in the home. Donate goods if you’re so inclined, such as gently worn clothes to those in need. You can also have a garage sale and make some spare change if you prefer. If you have bigger or more valuable items, there’s always eBay and Craigslist.

That’s our top ten countdowns, but we’re interested in knowing if you think we’ve missed something on financial tips. Leave a comment below and let us know what you’ve done, or perhaps you’re planning to do to save money this year.

Author’s Bio:

Dwayne Thomas loves writing on money and technology. He works for cabletv.com.

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